White matter disease doesn't have specific symptoms, but depending on its severity, the condition may indicate the presence of, or an increased risk for, Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis and stroke, reports About.com. Some researchers suggest that white matter disease impacts brain function at low levels, says Science Daily.
The white matter of the brain is the area where connections exist between neurons, says About.com. White matter exists in the brain and parts of the spinal cord. White matter disease occurs when other complications such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes affect the brain. Low levels of white matter disease are normal with age, but higher levels are of concern. High levels of white matter disease show up in individuals with high stroke risk factors, and Alzheimer's, Wilson's disease and multiple sclerosis are all associated with an increase in white matter disease.
In 2014, researchers at Baycrest Health Sciences in Toronto reported that white matter disease slows down the speed of cognition and negatively impacts planning, organizational, attention and problem-solving skills, according to ScienceDaily. They suggest that white matter disease is so insidious because the effects are chronic and aggravate slowly over an extended period of time, causing patients to have difficulty detecting impairments until significant damage has occurred.